16 February 2006


The MSM has yet again displayed its ignorance about the publishing industry. Lesson 3 of Clear Communication: Do not misuse terms that have a technical meaning within an industry in writing about that industry in general-circulation publications.

After reading this piece of dreck in the Guardian, I can only shake my head. I wish this was an isolated example; I even wish this was an example of just mistakes made in discussing the publishing industry. Needless to say, I am not pleased. Not pleased at all. As I've tried to make clear over the years:

Vanity publishing Self-publishing

The Guardian is not the only, or even the worst, offender; neither is Mr Keegan, the columnist who made this statement at the end of the above-linked article:

One other site with a different business model is Grosvenor House, which charges £495 for a bespoke service including add-ons (such as text editing, jacket design with 2,000 colours, distribution, five free copies and marketing) that cost extra with other companies. It looks as though the publishing industry could be in line for a much needed shock. Vanity publishing is dead. Long live print on demand.

Umm, pardon me, but you just described a vanity press. Period. "Print on demand" is a printing technology, not a business model. I could stock a warehouse with thousands of copies of books used in the POD process, just as I could specify a print run of a single copy of an offset-printed book. The equation between self-publishing and inexpensive-but-nonetheless-vanity publishing made several times in the article is wrong. It is also an incitement to fraud. That is not to say that all self-publishing is fraud-free, or requires that every single step be actually done in the author's basement or garage. Neither is it to say that all vanity publishing is fraudulently induced. It is only to say that confusing the public about the two business models is a disturbingly effective way for the deception that dominates vanity publishing to become accepted among a particularly easy-to-mislead segment of the public.

So, Mr Keegan, you get today's Mark of Shame. I strongly suspect that it won't be long before you won't be the latest exemplar of ignorance and sloppy writing concerning the publishing industry and/or authors' rights and/or intellectual property. I actually doubt that I'll have to wait 24 hours.